When all the turquoise corduroy pantaloons have finally been put to bed, the cognoscenti know that London Fashion Week is the one that really matters. Sure, New York might have the money, but apart from Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren (huge titans in their own right, who have built two of the biggest brands in the world), recently the city hasn’t been overburdened with talent. Some fashion editors I know say they only go to New York Fashion Week now for the shopping.
Paris has the glitz and glamour, but equally it could be said that it’s stuck in the past, a bourgeois facsimile of days gone by, peppered with a few stand-out British designers such as Kim Jones and Stella McCartney. Some of the runways shows during Paris Fashion Week are extraordinary, but they do not often equate to real life.
And as for Milan? Well, the fashion industry there might be the most integrated, the most vertical, and the most successful, but let’s face it, there’s only so many times you can stare at a pair of tailored chinos and quilted gilets coming down the catwalk.
No, London is where it’s at, principally because we have always been good at tradition and good at rebellion (we invented the double-breasted suit, the miniskirt, the bowler hat, bondage trousers, brogues and the tuxedo. Oh, and roller skates). There is a genuine sense of regeneration here, as every six months the city throws up (sometimes literally) another batch of insanely talented young maestros, all of whom use the city as a petri dish.
The city has for decades fostered the kind of Bolshevik mentality that has produced every important youth culture movement since the Second World War. Edwardians, teds, mods, rockers, leather boys, hippies, skinheads, glam rockers, soul boys, punks, new romantics, rude boys, psychobillies, goths, baggies, ravers, emos, hipsters — with a few notable exceptions, these were all born in London, and have helped the city foster the greatest street style in the world — an ever-changing cavalcade of ingenuity that has not just fed into the fashion industry, but in some respects sustained it.
In addition to street style, we have the tailoring of Savile Row, the international elegance of Bond Street, and an interdisciplinary cultural bedrock that is unrivalled anywhere else in the world.
Art, music, design, food, dance, film, clubs, gender fluidity… and fun. Because while the tall fashion poppies in Paris, Milan and New York will all claim the crown for themselves, even they will admit that we throw the best parties.
London Fashion Week — the most inventive, the surprising, and the influential fashion week of them all.